A look into Taher

The minds and planning behind the school’s food service


Sam Gittleman

Hours of planning go into each meal prepared here in the Upper School kitchen

When walking through the cafeteria during non-lunch hours, two things stand out: the constant, strenuous work necessary to prepare food for over 500 people, and the music blasting from the kitchen.

     “Sometimes it’s reggae, sometimes it’s heavy metal, and sometimes it’s country western,” says Chef Neil Brown, a ten-year veteran of Café Blake. “The one I like is the Weird Al Yankovic. You know, ‘Don’t want no Captain Crunch, don’t want no Raisin Bran […] Just eat it.’ That’s indicative of what we’d like to tell [the students] sometimes.”

     Café Blake, known to many students as Taher, does more than just cook food. Take, for example, the Tuscan Piegga Sandwich, a meaty stack of ham, salami, fresh basil, and provolone cheese. Serving it requires analysis of historical consumption data, advance orders from three providers, and hours of preparation both the day before and the day of serving. 

     Says Executive Chef Paul Babel, “[Production is] fairly structured, in the sense that we try to keep a reign on how much food we produce, but on the same token, we don’t want to run out.” Keeping tabs on the popularity of dishes allows for chefs to work to avoid excesses and shortages, but they often persist.

     Brown continues, “[Students] don’t eat standard portions […] It makes it very difficult, very, very difficult, to project how much food we’re going to need.”

     All is not lost with uneaten food, though, as around 90% of the time, Taher’s excesses go to the Peace House, which provides meals for the homeless and sheltered of Minneapolis.